“Values are like a beacon in the night. No chest pounding or big shot pronouncements are needed because if you live them, they will come. When I say “they” I mean the talent you need to run the organisation, the customers who buy your product, and the communities that you operate in… There is no big mystery to it. The problem is that you have to live it — and so many companies fall short.” Ron Thomas, Human Capital Strategist.
While they may be abstract, values are the compass that should guide your organisation’s thinking and actions. They are the foundation upon which a company and its success is built. The principles and values a company stands for reveals what is important in both business and life – how business should be conducted, its view on humanity, its role in society, the way the world works, and what is to be held inviolate. In outstanding organisations, the values and beliefs are deeply felt and reinforced by key individuals at critical junctures in the organisation’s history.
Thomas J. Watson Jr., CEO of IBM from 1956 to 1971, identified the first elements of IBM’s guiding philosophy; its core values and beliefs, and eloquently described their role in the life of an organisation:
‘I firmly believe that any organisation, in order to survive and achieve success, must have a sound set of beliefs on which it premises all its policies and actions. Next, I believe that the most important single factor in corporate success is faithful adherence to those beliefs. And finally, I believe the organisation must be willing to change everything about itself except those beliefs as it moves through corporate life.’
Most companies – including IBM and HP – have more than one core value and belief. Tom Watson lists IBM’s three most fundamental values as: respect for the individual, unparalleled customer service, and the pursuit of superiority in all that the company undertakes. Some companies have developed a more extensive set of core beliefs.
However values should go beyond just words in a document. Employees, and more importantly an organisation’s board members and senior executives, must embody the associated values’ principles in all of their dealings with internal and external stakeholders. In particular, it is the words and actions of employees’ immediate supervisors that impact most on employees’ own behavior. It is therefore crucial that board members and senior executives pay attention to the manner in which their mid-level managers are behaving. In addition, effort should be spent on incorporating ethics, fairness and integrity into the talent management framework. By doing so ethical behaviours are taken into consideration when managing performance, career planning and determining compensation and rewards. Whichever manner you choose to articulate your values, it is imperative that you also have means and intent to measure them, to have an on-going process to evaluate how well your company is doing at upholding its most important asset – its ethics and values.
How is this possible? Partnering with Origin 360 Assessments, we can help you to measure and assess the extent to which employees perceive themselves and others are acting ethically and embodying the values of their organisation. The results of such analysis will prove invaluable in giving grounds for rewarding adherence or informing management should there be a need for positive reinforcement and recalibration.
Impact of Organisational Values on Business Performance, by The European Centre for TQM.
The people side of Risk Intelligence, by Deloitte.